“Learn from the Fight” included a couple of short reviews of significant boxing events before we went back to the new reigning heavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson, make his first defence of the world title.
Alphonse Halimi versus Mario D’Agata NYAC and Ring World Bantamweight Championship 01.04.1957
Alphonse “The Little Terror” Halimi was born on 18th February 1932 in Constantine, Algeria. He was Jewish and born into a country that was impacted severely by the Second World War. He was also the youngest of 13 children, only seven of whom would reach adulthood. His father was a postal worker. Halimi ran away from home when he was 10 and lived on the war-torn streets of Algiers until he was 12. This was when a tailor called Dainox apprenticed him and effectively became his adoptive father. He encouraged Halimi to train in sports and noticed that, amongst other things, he was an excellent swimmer. However, after being caught in a street fight, Dainox directed the teenager to take up boxing. This became Halimi’s passion. He trained at the Mouloudia Gymnasium and always wore their colours – red and green – on his shorts. He also idolised the Algerian-born Marcel Cerdan to the point that he carried a picture of the great world middleweight champion at the bottom his suitcase throughout his career. Another trademark of Halimi, like several Jewish boxers of the time and in the previous era, was his wearing the star of David on his training shorts.
Halimi’s amateur career began at age 16 and he boxed over 100 matches before he was invited to train in France. After joining the military he expanded his amateur career and after being discharged he won both the Amateur French bantamweight title in 1953 and ’54 before winning the Mediterranean Bantamweight title in 1955. He then turned professional, gaining his first notable win over Billy Peacock in 1956. Boxing experts described the points victory and as a close and strategic bout, but the crowds found it to be very boring due to the cautious circling and clinching.
Halimi came into the title bout having only had 19 professional fights and was clearly the underdog. He was recorded to be 5’3″ and his reach at 66″.
Mario D’Agata fought two more fights after winning the world title before he put the belt on the line. These non-title bouts were a points victory over Italy’s Juan Cardenas and a draw against Switzerland’s Robert Tartari. The decision was made that the winner of this bout would fight the current holder of the NBA’s recognised world title, Raol Macias, to create an undisputed world champion.
The title defence was held at the Palais des Sports, Paris, France. This was an open air venue and, on the day of the bout, a storm broke out. Due to D’Agata’s hearing disability, special lights were erected so that he could see when the round was over. They would flash the moment the bell rang. Due to the storm one of these signal light was struck by lightning in round 3 and D’Agata was showered in sparks, resulting in burns to his neck and back. However, the bout continued.
Overall D’Agata tried to take the fight to Halimi but the challenger fought back at a terrific pace. The bout was noted to contain a lot of clinching that frequently had to be separated by the referee. We only had access to round 15 of this bout and Halimi had easily won the majority of the bout despite being the first time the Algerian fighter had gone the distance in a professional fight. Halimi was keen to match the champion’s pace and did well to do just that. Early on in the round D’Agata attempted to move out of the range he sought for most of the fight with a posting jab but Halimi was happy to bang away at close range. He won the match by 11 rounds, D’Agata only receiving two and the other two marked even. Halimi would go on to face Macias.
Hogan Bassey versus Cherif Hamia Undisputed World Featherweight Championship 24.06.1957
Hogan “Kid” Bassey MBE was born Okon Asuquo on 3rd June 1932 on the banks of the Cross River, Creek Town, Calabra, Nigeria. He turned professional in 1947 winning his first bout, a six round points decision, on 28th November over Jimmy Brown. He won his second bout but drew on his third against Bolo Lawai. His ninth bout saw him win the Nigerian Flyweight championship and defeat Dick Turpin (not to be confused with the middleweight fighter). He successfully defended it against the Texas Kid before losing it in a rematch with Turpin. He then won it back from Bob Emmanuel barely a month afterwards. Bassey had fought in four national title fights between 27th July and 26th December.
Bassey suffered his second career loss against old rival Bola Lawai in a non-title bout before winning the West African Flyweight title Ghana’s Ogli Tettey in 1950. After two non-title bout victories that year, Bassey stopped Joe Bennett in round 10 to clinch the Nigerian Bantamweight title. In 1951 he won his next four non-title bouts including a rubber match against Dick Turpin. After a draw against Little Joe Bassey successfully defended the Nigerian Bantamweight title and won the West African Bantamweight title.
1952 saw Bassey travel to the UK where he would become nationalised and live in Liverpool. Under the management of George Biddles and Jimmy August, his career really took off. By 19th November 1955, he had a record of 53-10-4 including the Commonwealth Featherweight Championship that he gained that day after knocking out the UK’s Billy Kelly. He would successfully defend it two years later against Australia’s Percy Lewis before winning a unanimous decision over Puerto Rico’s Miguel Berrios in an elimination bout for the undisputed World Featherweight championship.
Cherif Hamia was born on 23rd March 1931 in Guergou, Algeria. He had a very successful amateur career that included two wins over golden gloves champions in the USA. He also finished in fifth place at the 1953 European Amateur Boxing Championships in Warsaw. This was the same year he moved to France and began his professional career under Philippe Filippi at the Box-Stal with a first round knockout over Jean Demeurs. He then won his next 13 fights, all taking place in either Paris or Algiers, clinching the French Featherweight Championship in 1954. He lost his first bout in a shock first round knockout pm 10th December 1954 to Louis Cabo, but this would be the only dip in his ascent to the world title. By 1956, after defeating Miguel Berrios, he set to challenge Sandy Saddler for the undisputed world featherweight championship. However, Saddler’s car accident injury resulted in the title being vacated.
21st January 1957 saw Hamia take the European Featherweight Championship. He then set his sights again on the world title, now vacated and with only he and Hogan Bassey standing.
The fight saw Hamia win the first knockdown but it was Bassey who took the fight in the tenth round. Most of the fight was decided by Bassey’s jabs and eventually overpowering Hamia. The tenth round ended with the referee stepping before more damage could be done. Bassey became the first Nigerian-born boxer to win a world title.
Floyd Patterson versus Tommy Jackson Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship 29.07.1957Thomas “Tommy”
“Hurricane” Jackson was born on 9th August 1931. He was known for his unorthodox style of fighting and his tremendous endurance. He was trained and managed by Whitey Bimstein.
By 1956 he was in the contender position for the heavyweight title, coming behind Archie Moore. He defeated notable greats such as Bob Baker and the legendary former world heavyweight champion, Ezzard Charles twice in 1955.
Jackson then fought Patterson in an elimination fight that resulted him losing a 12 round split decision. Patterson’s inability to knock out Jackson haunted him thanks to the words of some critics. The now reigning champion took Jackson in his first defence after knocking out Archie Moore to win the vacant crown.
The fight took place at the New York Polo Grounds and was refereed by Ruby Goldstein.
Patterson went into the fight with a record of 31-1 whereas Jackson had 29-5-1. Patterson was the 5-1 favourite to win and 8-5 favourite to win via knockout. The champion hadn’t fought in eight months and was his longest career layoff.
An audience of 18,101 generated an estimated yield of $190,000. Radio and television rights amounted to an additional $175,000. Patterson was guaranteed with $175,000 or 40 per cent of the gate, whichever was the greater, whereas Jackson received 20 per cent of total receipts. However, the day after the fight Cus D’Amato, Patterson’s trainer, agreed with the fighter to only take 40 per cent to allow promoter Emil Lence $20,600 profit.
Patterson went into the fight determined to wear Jackson’s body down rather than head hunt. Bizarrely Jackson operated like a latter day heavyweight version of Jake LaMotta in the way he absorbed blows to the head and protected his body.
From round one, the pattern was set. Patterson was out to finish the job. When interviewed prior to the fight, he told reporters that he wanted to finish the bout in round five. He clearly dominated Jackson and had him down just before the bell. However, the challenger was on his feet and back to his corner as if it had been a slip. The replay showed quite clearly that Floyd had unleashed a clean combination that sat his opponent on the seat of his shorts.
Round two also saw Patterson take his man down with relative ease but Jackson was back up at the count of two. And so it continued. Jackson adopted a peculiar stance that put his head forward and protected his body. He then flailed with his arms throwing haymakers around his opponent. Patterson exhibited D’Amato’s peek-a-boo style adhering to its strict rule-set. He put his body squarely in the line of fire, slipped side to side at the waist, bobbed and weaved; his compact high guard a direct contrast to the gangly looking Jackson.
Jackson tasted the canvas for a third time in round nine. So far he had done a decent enough job not to go down under the pressure of Patterson’s relentless barrages. This time it looked like the end with Jackson almost on the run as he sagged into the ropes. However, he was barely down for a count of four before he was back into the fight eager to continue.
Jackson is the type of fighter I described in the titular essay of my book, “Mordred’s Victory”. This is an especially dangerous opponent who will not stop coming at an opponent no matter how hopeless it seems. They can often catch out the supposed naturals of fighting who either become complacent, frustrated or worn out. It was reported that Patterson was seen looking to the heavens at the end of round nine wondering how much more punishment he could dish out and Jackson was willing to take. There are clear comparisons with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre bout involving Jake LaMotta’s seemingly masochistic willingness to take Sugar Ray Robinson’s punches in a demonstration that he could not be knocked out.
Sure enough round 10 saw the end of the slaughter. However, Ruby Goldstein’s intervention was met with strong resistance from Jackson. Similarly Patterson and D’Amato felt deprived of a clean knockout. However, there was no doubting the champion’s dominance over Jackson this time. He had thoroughly out-boxed him from beginning to end and the end had come via a stoppage.